Of course, not everyone’s on board. If companies adopt four-day work weeks voluntarily and piecemeal, for example, they may run up against a competitor that doesn’t, and lose out. To really work for everyone, a four-day work week would have to be a rule enforced across the whole economy. You’d need to cut the overtime threshold to four eight-hour days a week (to avoid stressed-out people working fewer days but more hours per day), and strengthen overtime law to apply it to as many workers as possible. You’d also need to raise per hour pay to make sure no one loses income by working fewer hours. That means minimum wage hikes, more powerful unions, and macroeconomic policies to achieve and sustain full employment.
As Cooper notes, there’s also another way to go at this problem: Nationally-mandated paid vacation, sick leave, family leave, and more generous unemployment benefits. Even if we don’t officially reduce the 40-hour work week, we can punch a lot more holes in it.
But this all gets to something the wealthy elite class might not like about a shorter work week: The loss of power of money. Some employers may actually prefer that work be the sole focus of their employees’ lives. And as I pointed out, our lack of leisure time is intrinsically bound up with inequality.